Existential crisis

The strong language used by PASOK Chairman George Papandreou in his effort to stem the flow of voters away from the Socialist party has caused general hilarity. The objectives of Papandreou’s desperate efforts are not hard to decipher. The popularity of PASOK under the leadership of its recently installed chairman is tumbling, and the party is plunging into a crisis that is expected to escalate after the European polls which conservative New Democracy is expected to win by a comfortable margin. Given this grim situation, Papandreou had to react in some way. It is only that the manner in which he has reacted underscores the fact that PASOK’s arrogant cadres have totally failed to grasp the reasons why a disillusioned electorate voted them out of power on March 7. Notwithstanding PASOK’s landslide defeat in the national elections, the Socialist leadership has conducted no self-criticism nor has it tried to clean up its act – rather, it is out to lambaste the performance of its conservative foes in these areas. And though Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), hammered at the now-departed Socialist administration for nourishing what he called delusions of grandeur and for wasting far too much money on organizing the Summer Olympics, Papandreou has the temerity to accuse New Democracy of inflating the cost of the Games from 4.6 billion to 10 billion euros. Demagogy borders on hilarity when one oversteps the mark. Everyone can see that PASOK is suffering from an existential crisis. The party has been thrown into an identity crisis; it has no idea where it wants to go; it is not even sure what social groups it wants to represent and depend on. Papandreou is tearing down his party but he is hardly convincing when it comes to sketching out what he wants to build in its place. The crisis is exacerbated as Papandreou’s ability to lead the Socialist party is widely being questioned. This crisis in the socialist opposition is part of the broader existential crisis now plaguing Europe’s social-democratic parties which seem to be becoming further alienated from the electorate – a trend that should be confirmed in the elections for European Parliament. PASOK and the social-democratic parties worldwide need a radical overhaul if they are to again play any influential political role. However, the attempted reform does not seem to be on the right track – at least judging from Papandreou’s latest opposition tactics.